My name is Kelly Moore and I spent my summer of 2019 working as an undergraduate research assistant in the Dr. Paul Stoodley Microbiology lab. I worked independently on a project that is focused on studying the elution patterns of different combinations and quantities of antibiotics in an in vitro artificial draining knee model.
For the first time since I had worked in the lab, I was given my own independent project for the summer. I was expected to make my own timeline/schedule, develop the procedure, analyze and present the results. I learned just how independent I could be as I only reported to someone higher up than me once a week. I was able to arrive at the lab and begin working on my project without asking permission or for instruction. It was encouraging to see a glimpse of what my future could look like.
Although I enjoyed the freedom of being able to do my work on my own, I did realize that I don’t want to work in the lab for a career. Being independent this summer meant that I didn’t have many interactions with my peers. They were busy working on their own projects and most of the time I was under a hood, making sure that my work was sterile. This meant I was isolated for most of my day unless I had a meeting. While every once in a while its nice to have some alone time, it was difficult for me to be in this situation all day, everyday. It wasn’t until the middle of the summer where I began to sit in the floor lounge while analyzing data on my computer instead of being at the benches. I may not have spoken to someone everyday, but the slightest bit of interaction made me feel better. I realized that I needed a career where I have human interaction for most of the day. I enjoy talking to people, getting to know them and making meaningful connections.
While I didn’t have many interactions, I had more interactions with my PI and the lab manager than in previous semesters because I was in the lab all day everyday of the week and not in classes. I was asked to do more tasks, to think more for myself and to present my findings in our lab meetings. I think from this experience I have learned more about research and what it entails as well as I’ve learned more about bacteria and surgical practice.
I’ve talked most about my experience in the lab, but haven’t discussed how my life outside of the lab was also impacted. This was my first summer not living with my family and while my roommates were also here working, most of other friends had gone home for the summer. At first, I just went to work and then went home everyday until I was bummed out. I realized I couldn’t wait around for people to want to do things with me. Even the simple task of grocery shopping by myself was strange. I got over the fear of sitting alone at a restaurant, even just Panera, and went and explore places of Columbus. There are many more cafes and boutiques than I knew of and most likely wouldn’t have known of unless I spent this summer trying new things. I met many new people because I escaped my comfort zone.
I did miss my parents and brother, and went home occasionally to spend time with them, but this summer showed me that I am capable of being independent – that I don’t need to wait on other people to get things done.
Overall, this project was transformational for me. Until this summer, I went back and forth between a career in research and a career as a physician. I now know that while I do love the science aspect of research, I want to be able to have more human interaction. I am also more intrigued in microbiology after spending 3 months studying it, and listening to professionals speak on their contributions to the subject. Lastly, I am more confident in myself in which I believe after graduation I have the potential to thrive if I do choose to move away from home and live in a new place. I am capable of meeting new people and having fun without the connections of school.